The demand for sustainable food is growing due to the impending effects of climate change and the rising population, which is expected to surpass nine billion by 2050. Research from Michigan State University shows that global agriculture production levels need to increase by 60-70% in order to meet the growing demand. With soybeans being among the largest crops grown in America, U.S. soybean farmers are at the forefront of the climate crisis, working hard to sustainably feed families around the world.
Developments in agriculture technology play a significant role in farmers' ability to meet the growing demand, while simultaneously protecting the environment. As the climate continues to evolve, U.S. soybean farmers adapt and play a critical role in shaping the future of farming – they prioritize innovation and are investing in advancements in technology to run their farms more sustainably, a benefit valued by farmers, consumers and food companies alike.
Sustainability Starts With Healthy Soil
The agricultural industry as a whole has seen massive growth in areas like seed technology, equipment design and precision planting, but a key development within the industry is its focus on measuring the beneficial effects of innovative soil management strategies, which play a crucial role in the advancement of agriculture.
"Soil health is a key component of sustainable farming," says Meagan Kaiser, soil scientist and soybean farmer from Missouri. "Healthy soil can mitigate flooding and droughts and even lead to higher yields. Farmers keep soil healthy by closely managing nutrients, water, and pests, using cover crops, and incorporating practices like crop rotation and conservation tillage. It's important that we keep making strides and advancements in this area to ensure we can provide for the growing demand and enhance the future of farming."
U.S. soybean farmers strive to be global leaders on sustainability and soil health initiatives. Soil health cannot be measured in a single, universal way. To solve this challenge and help farmers improve the sustainability of their farm, various components related to soil health need to be viewed from a holistic perspective. The United Soybean Board supports industry efforts to enhance soil health metrics to help the nation's 515,000 soybean farmers meet their sustainability goals. Recently, they've supported startups like SoilMetrics, which works to provide software services for farmers to understand current greenhouse gas emissions and evaluate options to reduce their emissions.
AgTech Advancements Allow Farmers to Grow More With Less
In addition to focusing on soil health, technology plays an integral role in every aspect of agriculture. On-farm technology advancements allow farmers to grow more food on less land with more accuracy when applying fertilizer, water and pesticides, which help protect the land and surrounding waterways. Just like no two crops are the same, no two farmers are identical in how and what they farm. Every farmer has to work around different climates, soil composition and economic realities, so advancements in technology are critical to successful and sustainable farming.
Farmers today utilize modern tools such as:
- Sustainable practices focused on continuous improvement: A range of agricultural practices such as no-till farming, cover crops and crop rotation which increase the amount of carbon in the soil and work to replenish the health of the soil and sustain it for long-time use.
- Autonomous farming: Equipment like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and auto-steer technology, aim to increase efficiency and reliability while creating cost-efficient and effective equipment that can help meet the demand of our growing population.
- Precision farming: Fueled by GPS, drones and satellites, precision farming uses technology to precisely plant seeds, water crops, apply fertilizer and more, increasing crop yields while maximizing the impact of every resource – reducing waste and runoff.
- Bioengineering: Farmers are utilizing the newest seed technology that results in the reduction of herbicide applications, decreased weed and insect pressure, increased yields and profits, as well as a plethora of environmental benefits.
Making Considerable Advancements Towards U.S. Soy Sustainability Goals
As stewards of the land, U.S. soybean farmers focus on utilizing sustainable practices to reduce the impact farming has on the environment. They are committed to sustainability and actively working toward meeting their goals. By 2025, U.S. soybean farmers aim to:
- Reduce land use impact by 10%
- Reduce soil erosion an additional 25%
- Increase energy use efficiency by 10%
- And reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 10%
Today, U.S. soybean farmers have made considerable progress. They've exceeded their land efficiency goal and already made it halfway to their soil erosion goal, thanks to advancements in farming tools and technology. U.S. soybean farmers continue to push boundaries in the industry to meet the demand from our growing population and exceed their sustainability goals.
Driving Sustainable Supply Chains with U.S. Grown Soy
Companies looking to showcase their commitment to building a more sustainable future will value the recent launch of U.S. Soy's Sustainable U.S. Soy Mark. The mark recognizes U.S. grown soy ingredients as sustainable inclusions for food production. When you see the mark associated with products, you can rest assured that the soy ingredients were grown sustainably and are helping to contribute to a healthier environment for all. To learn more, visit USSOY.org and register to attend the upcoming agtech panel, "Agriculture Innovations Driving the Future of Food Stability," at the virtual IFT event from July 19 to 23.